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the L word
December 17, 2012 10:21 PM   Subscribe

how can i learn to love myself and be more self-confident in my relationship?

my SO told me the other day that he loved me for the first time. it was a really sweet, meaningful moment, particularly because he had taken his time before saying it and he explained exactly what that meant to him. it felt really good to hear, even after many months of him telling me already how much i meant to him and how "perfect" i am.

the problem is... i don't trust it. i trust him, and i'm pretty sure i love him too, but i don't know if i trust love. (i've been in so-called love before, and it turned into a bit of a nightmare.) and as a result, i have a hard time accepting his love for me and not picking all over it and feeling like it's somehow insincere. it also doesn't help that i'm a perfectionist, and the idea of someone else thinking that i'm "perfect" (even though i know they don't really mean perfect, because nobody's truly perfect) puts this strange pressure on me. the burden of living up to the ideal in that person's head or something.

on that note, i've found myself feeling way more self-conscious in this relationship than my last one (which was very long), and i'm not sure why, or what to do about it. my SO hasn't given me any reason to feel judged or strange. he is a little reserved with his feelings, so it was a major milestone (i think) for him to be so candid recently. for whatever reason, i feel like there's a sort of imbalance of vulnerability, and that may be part of the issue. i feel more vulnerable, like i've shared more embarrassing parts of my life and cried in front of him, etc.

anything proactive or specific that i can do to improve my self-confidence and/or balance the vulnerability scales a bit (if that makes any sense)? i'm very independent and the opposite of needy in relationships. i have a lot of other things going on in my life that i'm proud of, and certainly don't want to depend on someone else for satisfaction. but at the same time, i don't think i truly love myself, and that may be the root of the problem.
posted by happyjuice to Human Relations (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Express to your SO what you have written here; especially let him know that you have a negative gut reaction against positive exaggeration ("perfect"). If you each are forthcoming about your emotions, as well as each others reactions to those emotions, they are less likely to cause stress.

I would also suggest finding a good counselor/therapist in order to spend some time discussing your past and current relationships, including your relationship with yourself. The better you understand and trust yourself, the more you will understand and trust those who love you.
posted by 1367 at 11:10 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you're me. Sorry 'bout that. ;-)

Not sure I can offer much advice, since I don't really know how to deal with this stuff myself, but I'll tell you what's helped me in the past.

First, remember that many many many people don't 'trust' love, especially if they've been badly burnt in the past. But what helps me is to think 'What's the alternative?' Because seriously, what is the alternative to taking a leap of faith and choosing to trust? I can decide not to trust anybody, and keep myself safe inside my little shell, and...be lonely and sad. Or I can choose to trust (or at least, to 'act as if'), and let the chips fall where they may. I know which way I'd rather live.

Not showing vulnerability does not keep you safe. It keeps you lonely.

Second, when you truly love yourself, showing a bit of vulnerability feels less dangerous, because you already have what you need to feel 'safe'. Work on this. I'm starting to, but it's not easy.
posted by Salamander at 11:49 PM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


on that note, i've found myself feeling way more self-conscious in this relationship than my last one (which was very long), and i'm not sure why, or what to do about it. my SO hasn't given me any reason to feel judged or strange. he is a little reserved with his feelings, so it was a major milestone (i think) for him to be so candid recently. for whatever reason, i feel like there's a sort of imbalance of vulnerability, and that may be part of the issue. i feel more vulnerable, like i've shared more embarrassing parts of my life and cried in front of him, etc.

In the relationships that have felt closest and safest for me, there's been an exchange of like for like - mirroring, I guess - in gesture, touch, verbal expression, laughter, confession.

There's a narrowing of personal space without discussion or awkwardness. Some of that is about an active draw, but I don't mean it's a sticky thing, necessarily, just that it feels ok and good to be physically closer to that person than others. Both people have similar levels of need for touch, and similar energy levels. There is at least a rough similarity in style of person.

Finally, I feel basically understood most of the time. There might be occasional disagreement or misunderstanding, but I don't feel compelled to explain myself all that often.

Not that I should hold myself up as a model of adjustment or anything, but for me, those are observable signs that go along with a sense of comfort and easy trust, with friends and partners. I'm wondering if some of those sorts of dynamics might be relevant.

FWIW, I experienced this sort of thing, albeit with new friends, at a time when I really would not have expected to. (Just after a bad relationship ended.) Turned out, I didn't have to persuade myself to trust. Granted, it's different with a romantic relationship.

Nutshell: do you have the sense that he gets you? If not, are there other people in your life who do? If the answers are no and yes, maybe his appreciation rings hollow not because you're traumatized or have low self-esteem; it might be (partly) that there's a slight mismatch in wavelengths, which can make it hard to feel known.
posted by nelljie at 12:45 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would guess that you don't believe or trust that your SO loves you, because you have a hard time really believing that you are indeed lovable. He's so candid with his thoughts that it must not be true (because you're a perfectionist yourself), and you know deep down, you're not perfect. The thing is, no one is.

You might feel nervous in this relationship because you feel he sees the real you, and might reject you for it, or find out that you're not this almost flawless being he thinks you are. Of course you're not, and you don't have to be. The point of what he's saying is that you're perfect enough for him, not a literal interpretation of the phrase.

Let go of the hurt you've acquired from the past, and allow yourself to be loved. It's really a truly wonderful gift to have someone be vulnerable enough to give you their heart. Enjoy it, stay present with it, and try not to second guess it.
posted by readygo at 1:26 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


When he says you're perfect, he's not saying you are an idealised specimen of womanhood; he's saying you are, flaws and all, perfect for him. You understand that, right?

(i've been in so-called love before, and it turned into a bit of a nightmare.)

The two are not mutually exclusive. Falling in love is not a guarantee of a happy ending.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:58 AM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


You cannot come to love yourself within a relationship as successfully as if you were outside of one.

The love for yourself needs cultivation without the added red herring of outside validation, especially from a SO. The reason for this is in case the relationship with the SO ends, your self esteem will be a casualty.

Seek a qualified therapist before attempting to do this on your own.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:05 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with the above - perfectionism tends to be our brains telling us we're not really worthy until we Try Harder. And, of course, perfect is not a humanly attainable state, and so we're never worthy.

Therapy was the thing that helped me most. But in the meantime you could journal through things you think make you loveable by others and yourself. Make sure you include things that you think of as imperfect. Because if the only things about yourself you can respect and love are the ones where you've perfectionisted yourself to painful levels, you won't be helping yourself love your whole wonderful imperfect self. If it helps, pretend you're your best friend, or a small child, or someone else you love imperfections and all.

But mostly, therapy. Life is so much happier when you don't think you have to be perfect to be loveable.
posted by ldthomps at 6:09 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


the idea of someone else thinking that i'm "perfect" (even though i know they don't really mean perfect, because nobody's truly perfect) puts this strange pressure on me. the burden of living up to the ideal in that person's head or something.

I think this is entirely legitimate, and you wouldn't even have to have self-confidence issues to respond the way you are. Perfect? If he says "you are perfect and I love you" then you--knowing you are not perfect--are right to listen to that little voice that says "well wait a second, would you still love me if you knew I wasn't perfect?"

I would start by having an honest (but lighthearted) conversation with your partner. "You're sweet to say so but I'm really not perfect, nobody is. If you're gonna love me, you're gonna have to love me as I am, imperfect, warts and all." You don't want to be on a pedestal, you want to be right there next to him. It's a good thing to be imperfect, much more real and long-lasting.

If he insists on keeping you up on that pedestal, then you might have some other things to think about. People who love the ideal don't love the real deal. You deserve to be with someone who loves the real you. This may be your partner (it could be he's just using hollywood language) or it may not. Either way, don't ignore your instincts.
posted by headnsouth at 7:37 AM on December 18, 2012


You've been hurt before and the lesson you learned is that you will be hurt again. Know what?

You are absolutely right.

Everybody has a completely different life. I can't tell you how much pain you will endure in your life -- some of that comes from your own choices -- but the options are rather limited.

You can decide to live a life full of the constant pain of loneliness or accept that being with another person has the possibility to bring tremendous joy to balance out the painful episodes.
posted by trinity8-director at 10:43 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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